Sonam Wangchuk Ends 21-Day Fast Over Ladakh Demands

Sonam Wangchuk Ends 21-Day Fast Over Ladakh Demands

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Mr Wangchuk had started the fast on March 6.

Srinagar:

After surviving on salt and water for 21 days, noted climate activist and education reformer Sonam Wangchuk has ended his hunger strike to press for statehood for Ladakh and the protection of the fragile Himalayan ecology, but insisted that his fight will continue.

“I will continue to fight for constitutional safeguards for Ladakh and people’s political rights,” Mr Wangchuk said as he ended the hunger strike. Thousands gathered in various parts of the Union Territory as the fast ended, and women’s groups have said they will now begin a hunger strike over the same demands. 

When he had begun his fast on March 6, the reformer – whose life had inspired the character of Phsukh Wangdu in the 2009 film ‘3 Idiots’ – had said he would continue it for 21 days and that it could be “extendable till death”. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Wangchuk had urged the Union government to “show character” and meet the demands of the people of Ladakh. In a video posted on X, he had pointed to a frozen glass of water and said 350 people had joined him in the fast despite temperatures dropping to -10 degrees Celsius.

 “We are trying to remind and awaken the consciousness of our Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and Home Minister Mr Amit Shah to safeguard the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayan mountains in Ladakh and the unique indigenous tribal cultures that thrive here,” the activist said in the video. 

“We do not want to think of PM Modi and Amit Shah ji as just politicians, we would rather like to think of them as statesmen but, for that, they will have to show some character and farsightedness,” he added.

Sixth Schedule

Ladakh, which consists of the Leh and Kargil districts, became a separate Union Territory after Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated on August 5, 2019. 

Massive protests and hunger strikes began taking place in the UT earlier this year after leaders of Buddhist-dominated Leh and Muslim-dominated Kargil joined hands under the banners of the Apex Body of Leh and the Kargil Democratic Alliance to demand statehood and the safeguarding of rights of its majority tribal population under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Centre constituted a high-level committee to look into the demands but no breakthrough could be achieved after a series of meetings with representatives of the protesters. On March 4, leaders from the UT met Home Minister Amit Shah and said he had refused to accept the people’s demands. Mr Wangchuk began his fast in Leh two days later.

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